Twins share a bond that goes deeper than blood. It's a connection that continues outside the womb; an affinity that even the closest of non-twin siblings don't usually experience.
Such is the relationship between 27-year-old identical twins Samantha Smith Listorti and Tara Smith. They are not only both visual artists, they have recently started working together on a series of large-scale oil paintings in the studio they share in Old Saybrook.
The artists' first four collaborative works were exhibited last month (along with their individual paintings) at Six Summit Gallery in Ivoryton.
The bold, free-flowing works are laden with symbolism and surreal imagery, described by Listorti and Smith in their joint artist statement as "an exploration of an endless and ever-expanding dream world, where there is a playful dichotomy between the search for euphoria and a need to understand the present themes of a modern society."
Having grown up on Long Island, they say the imagery in their work is derived from their youth spent in punk rock clubs, urban street art, and their fascination with nature, dreams, and the metaphysical.
"We have a lot of the same interests, we're attracted to the same things visually — even the same artists," Listorti says.
"We're interested in what we can learn from each other — the outcome," Smith says. "Spiritually and intellectually we have a connection."
The women say they had always thrown around the idea of working in unison, but began to talk about it more and more in recent years.
"We did art together naturally as kids," Smith says. "And now we're doing it as professional artists. It's cool."
Even as very young children they recall telling people they were artists and say they never imagined being anything else.
Throughout their youth, the sisters won scholarships and awards and participated in after school art programs.
Both women attended Pratt College of Art in Brooklyn, New York. Both transferred to Lyme Academy College of Fine Art as painting majors—Listorti in 2008 and Smith in 2009.
Since graduating from Lyme Academy College, Listorti and Smith continued to work on their solo paintings, which have been exhibited in New York, Pennsylvania, and New England, and featured in various art magazines and newspapers. Smith assisted world-renowned contemporary sculptor Jeff Koons in his New York studio and did commercial mural painting. Listorti taught at the Tracy Art Center in Old Saybrook.
Although Listorti is married with an 18-month old child and Smith is childless, there is a common thread in their personal relationships — Listorti's husband and Smith's boyfriend are both musicians — and music plays a significant role in the lives of both sisters.
In order to do their collaborative work, Smith recently moved from New York to Old Lyme to be closer to Listorti, who lives in Old Saybrook.
As much as the twins have in common, down to their long chestnut tresses, streaked with blonde, each brings a unique vision to their collaborative work.
Smith says she's interested in commenting on social/economic and environmental issues in their narrative paintings. Tattoos (which both sisters have) fascinate Smith, and often appear on the female figures "reflecting an air of rebellion — a theme in a lot of the work," Smith says.
Listorti says she became drawn to painting animals last year, which appear in these collaborative pieces.
"I'm attracted to these different animals and their anatomy, fighting, merging with figures," she says. "Conflict interests me, and playing with space."
The sisters work on their paintings individually — each expressing their own vision — and then together, analyzing and dissecting what they've painted to find meaning in the marks and figures, colors and shapes, the various parts of the painting coming to one conclusion together.
They say they are very honest with each other and when one of them feels something needs to be changed, they don't skirt around the problem. They don't always agree, but they always talk it through and come to a resolution.
"It's always easier to be objective about someone else's work," Listorti notes.
The women plan to continue working collaboratively, refining their paintings, and finding new venues to exhibit the series.
They say they don't know of any other professional artists who are twins, working as one.
"We made a conscious choice to launch our careers together versus separately," Smith says.
And as far as these two sisters are concerned, they have the best of both worlds.
Samantha Smith Listorti and Tara Smith are represented by Six Summit Gallery in Ivoryton. For more information on the artists and upcoming shows, visit their joint website: www.samanthatara.com.